Sex, Lies and Audiotape
A Killing in Tiger Bay, 3 Episodes, BBC Two, reviewed by Leslie Jones
In 1988, prostitute Lynette White was brutally murdered in Butetown, Cardiff. The prime suspect, identified on Crimewatch, was a bloodied and confused white individual, seen near the location of the murder, 7 James Street. But as time passed with no arrests ensuing, South Wales Police came under increasing media and public pressure. The search for the perpetrator was superseded by the need to convict someone. In due course, five black and mixed race men, namely John Actie, Tony Paris, Yusef Abdullahi, Ronnie Actie and Stephen Miller, Lynette’s ‘boyfriend’, were accused of White’s murder. All of the defendants were known to the police. All had alibis.
The trial was switched from Cardiff to Swansea, where convictions seemed more likely, as there was no black community there. One of the key witnesses for the prosecution was prostitute Leanne Vilday, who, like the ‘Cardiff Five’, had been subjected to remorseless police pressure. Another witness, Angela Psaila, reportedly had an IQ of 55. The judge in the trial died of a heart attack, necessitating a re-trial. Three of the defendants, Tony Paris, Yusef Abdullahi and Stephen Miller, were eventually found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Some of the individuals who feature in this story, notably investigative journalist Satish Sekar, Michael Mansfield QC and veteran crime reporter Tom Mangold, assiduously sought the truth. Nevertheless, innocent men spent years in jail. All of the ‘Cardiff Five’ were psychologically damaged and some of them died prematurely. The convictions of Paris, Abdullahi and Miller were eventually declared unsafe by the Court of Appeal, because of the oppressive questioning of Stephen Miller (recorded on tape), who confessed to the killing. Lynette White’s actual killer, Jeffrey Gafoor, was subsequently convicted, thanks to familial DNA searching. Yet to date, not a single police officer has been successfully prosecuted for framing the ‘Cardiff Five’. All sophistry aside, Thrasymachus, one of Socrates’ interlocutors in The Republic, was surely right – “justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger”.
Dr Leslie Jones is the Editor of QR